Nairobi is set to be the eighth most visited city in Africa, according to the 2014 MasterCard Global Destinations Cities Index, despite several travel advisories issued on Kenya by Western governments. The number of international overnight visitors is projected to increase by a substantial 9% from 568,266 in 2013 to 619,506 in 2014.

“The proactive push for intra-Africa tourism has had a positive effect on the number of international visitors coming to Kenya,” says Mr James Wainaina, Vice President and Area Business Head, MasterCard, East Africa. “This has been spearheaded by the Ministry of Tourism’s campaign in other African countries to attract business and leisure tourists to Nairobi, the gateway to some of the world’s leading safari destinations.”

Nairobi ranks ahead of Dakar (619,413 visitors), Entebbe (576,434) and Tunis (427,807) among others in terms of projected international overnight visitors. According to the Index, international visitors are forecasted to spend $317 million in Nairobi in 2014, up nearly 13% from the $281 million spent in 2013, indicating the continued significance of tourism as a key economic driver for the country. “The impacts of travel are very significant from a business, social, and cultural perspective. International visitor spending constitutes an increasingly important source of business revenue in Nairobi, encompassing the hospitality, retail, transport, sports and culture industries, among many others,” says Mr Wainaina.

Now in its fourth year, the MasterCard Index of Global Destination Cities ranks 132 cities in terms of the number of their total international visitor arrivals and the cross-border spending by these same visitors in the destination cities. It also gives visitor and passenger growth forecasts for 2014. The 13 African cities ranked in the Index are Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Cairo, Casablanca, Accra, Nairobi, Beira, Dakar, Kampala, Lagos, Maputo and Tunis.

South African cities Johannesburg and Cape Town come in at first and second place as the most popular destination cities by international overnight visitors, attracting 4.2 million and 1.6 million visitors in 2014. Rounding out the top five most visited cities in Africa are Cairo in Egypt (1.35 million visitors spending US$804 million), Lagos in Nigeria (1.33 million visitors spending US$710 million), and Casablanca in Morocco (982,219 million visitors spending US$737 million).

For the third time in four years, London is the destination of choice for travellers. London will receive 18.7 million international visitors in 2014, followed by Bangkok (16.4 million), Paris (15.6 million), Singapore (12.5 million) and Dubai (11.9 million). These cities are benefiting from the surge in international travel fuelled by an expanding middle class, innovations in luxury travel and the rising need for business travel.

“The global travel sector has been supported by the growth of electronic payments. This is where MasterCard comes in. Every day we help consumers and businesses maximize all of the travel opportunities available to them, including a safe and secure way to pay no matter where they are,” says Mr Wainaina.

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